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Raees turns 5: How Shah Rukh Khan's gangster film inspired me in tough times

Raees Alam might be a grey-shade character with a criminal background, but his legacy, especially his morals, lives on.

Raees turns 5: How Shah Rukh Khan's gangster film inspired me in tough times
  • Shaheen Irani

Last Updated: 04.11 AM, Jan 25, 2022

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Journalism is a tough field. You slog all day long, and even after that, all you take back are the memories, experiences, and relationships with people. Struggling to reach an adequate level of compensation takes time, so does getting the respect of others. 

At such a time, Shah Rukh Khan, who has often starred in inspirational films, starred in Raees. A film that encouraged building your business and jobs in all forms.

As the movie completes five years today, it only seems like yesterday to watch Shah Rukh lip-sync the lyrics to "Zaalima" amid the beautiful, picturesque desert locales of Morocco. That song resonated well with many, but especially me, who was craving to find that one ray of hope when I was living hand to mouth. 

The first time I watched Raees was with the media personalities. There was pin-drop silence throughout the screening, and the only thought that came to my mind was, "How is this film not receiving love already?" Raees, for me, was just a film and an experience I wanted to live. By the time Shah Rukh's Raees Alam met Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub's Sadiq, I was sure I'd be watching the film again. It inspires me every single time.

I watched the movie, for the second time in Gaiety Galaxy theatre, my favourite spot in Mumbai. Not every film sustained my attention for this long but Raees was special. At a time when managing my expenses in a city like Mumbai was a tough task —I was eating just samosas and popcorn to — and I struggled to survive the competition at work, I would recall Shah Rukh's dialogue: "Ammi Jaan kehti thi, koi bhi dhanda chota nahi hota, aur dhande se bada koi dharm nahi." This dialogue became a mantra. While journalism isn't a "dhanda" (except if you consider selling news), this profession has actually become my religion. I stayed focused on work because that was keeping me afloat. Even when a situation frustrated me I knew had to plough through. 

Raees is one of the few films that helped me with this back then. This, and Jazbaa (from Ladies vs Ricky Bahl) are the two things that stood by me when I did not know how to stand by myself or on my own feet.

The third time I went to watch Raees was with a friend who is a big SRK fan and who managed to relate to the story as well as I did. Though we worked in different fields, he was exposed to an exploitative work culture just like me. But he wanted to start his own business just like Raees, but just like Raees, he had to check his pockets four times before following his dream. 

Rahul Dholakia's Raees takes creative liberties and did not include the cost of living in Mumbai among other things. The movie is like a good dream that very rarely turns into reality, unless, of course, you invest smartly.

That is how and why I watched Raees thrice in theatres — when I was living on a strict budget and my mental and physical health was not the best. Thankfully, Raees helped me with the former to some extent. I'm hoping the gangster drama will connect with many others too. Raees Alam might be a grey-shade character with a criminal background, but his legacy, especially his morals, lives on.

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